From the House – John Rafferty MP

THUNDER BAY – The House of Commons will resume sitting in just over a week, and MPs will again be debating the important issues of the day in our nation’s Capital.  The economy and the state of our massive budget deficit will certainly be on my mind and the minds of many others.  For these important debates, the information supplied by our Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) will prove essential.  Unfortunately Kevin Page, who has done a tremendous job in that post, has recently announced that he will not be seeking another mandate when his term expires in 2013.

Therefore, I would like to use this week’s column to pay tribute to Mr. Page and all that he has done in public service as Canada’s first PBO.

It’s a little known fact to many around here, but Kevin was born and raised in Thunder Bay and studied economics at Lakehead University before obtaining a Masters degree at Queen’s.  He made his mark in the Finance Department in the 1990’s where he was seen as a rising star while working through some of the most challenging economic conditions this country has faced.  When the time came for the Harper government to appoint Canada’s first PBO in 2008 Kevin was a natural choice.

As the first independent Parliamentary Budget Officer in Canadian history, Kevin’s responsibilities have included providing independent analysis of the state of our economy and the government’s expenditure plans including the costing of the federal budget.  In short, he is the unbiased and non-political authority when it comes to finding out the real cost of government programs and promises.

Since becoming our PBO Kevin has helped Parliament and public alike understand the true costs of the Afghanistan war, various Conservative spending commitments on the justice file, and has tried his best to track the Harper government’s stimulus spending.  I say ‘tried’ in the latter case because when he asked for information to help him do his job, the government initially refused before eventually dropping an unmarked cardboard box full or random documents and incomplete files on Kevin’s desk one afternoon.  As a true professional, Kevin did not complain and simply went about his work.

Time after time, Kevin’s numbers have proven to be more accurate than those put forward by the Conservative government which has made him a constant target for that gang in the media.  In January when Kevin tabled a report that showed he was running a structural deficit, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty smugly replied that Mr. Page was merely “speculating.”   Again in March when the Minister was faced with Kevin’s assertions that the government hadn’t been prudent in their budget forecasting, he replied by stating that Kevin is “usually wrong.”  As if being one of Canada’s foremost economic minds wouldn’t give him comfort, Kevin should always remember that it was Mr. Flaherty who denied a recession was even possible during the 2008 election – while we were already in one – and then made the infamous claim that he would “never” table a deficit budget before running the largest series of deficits in Canadian history.

Mr. Page has proven to be one of the most insightful and articulate fixtures in Ottawa during the short time he has served as Canada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer.  Providing accurate and reliable data during one of the worst recessions in Canadian history has surely been no easy job, but Canadians should all be thankful that it was Kevin who was charged with this task.  While I regret that he will not be seeking a second mandate when his term ends in 2013, I take great pride in the fact that a Lakehead educated Northwestern Ontario boy has made history and carried out his duties with such distinction.  Thank you Kevin, and keep up the good work.

For more information about Kevin and the PBO, you can view a clip from the Agenda with Steve Paikin that aired on TVO in 2009 at http://tinyurl.com/PagePBO .